For the young riders competing in the Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Finals at the prestigious Pennsylvania National Horse Show, the indoor arena on Sunday was a proverbial pressure cooker. This year, 241 hopefuls performed in the preliminary round and only 25 were brought back for the second round. From there, the top six faced a test packed with technical challenges to be met with precision, poise and style all together.
Brian Moggre, 17, emerged as the clear victor aboard Donald Stewart’s 10-year-old Holsteiner Efendi (Ephebe F. Ever x Legende IX), who also earned the Best Equitation Horse Award, sponsored by Missy Clark. Third after the first round, Brian moved into the lead with a bold effort in the second round. The final work-off required competitors to demonstrate changes of lead and counter canter to two fences. Brian effortlessly performed two simple changes on a straight line and clean flying changes to the counter canter while on the turn, a daring move that solidified a top finish.
Although Brian got his start in jumpers, he has proven his prowess in the hunter and equitation rings as well. He’s won the Zone 4 Regional Maclay Qualifier twice and finished in the top ten at the Maclay Finals and WIHS Finals. The Medal Final was his first (and certainly not last!) major equitation win. Before he jet set off to compete in the open jumpers at Harrisburg this week, we caught up with Brian to get the scoop on his Medal experience.
Noëlle Floyd: Congratulations! How does it feel to win the Medal Final?
Brian Moggre: It’s an amazing feeling I never thought I would be able to experience. It’s definitely trying to settle in. I have no words.
NF: Talk about your history with Efendi. How do you get on with him and what is he like to ride?
BM: I showed Efendi the first time in Kentucky this past August and then at the Hampton Classic and Kentucky National in September. I had no practice on him since them but he’s so reliable and always on his game. I could not have been more well mounted. I’m typically a nervous person, but he’s a great partner to help me relax. I know if I’m on my game he will always step up to the plate. Efendi is so versatile. He’s big and beautiful so in the hunter phase he can perform with finesse. He’s so smart and correct on his feet. He will perform great so it’s all up to me; it puts the pressure on myself. We get along so well. It’s a great confidence factor.
NF: What was your preparation like for the Final? Last year riders had to drop their stirrups for the last round. Did you practice without irons?
BM: I didn’t have much preparation. I probably jumped three jumps during the week – if that. It’s a great feeling knowing he’s going to be amazing. It was nerve-wracking going into the first round but the course built was beautifully for him. I was confident but that does not eliminate the nerves. He makes me feel comfortable and that’s one of his best qualities. They let us keep our stirrups this year, but I thought the test was technical enough and you got to showcase your strengths. I knew I had to give my all.
NF: You started the second round in third place. What do you think put you into the lead?
BM: I’m quite thankful for the position I was after the first round. It built a fire within me. I thought, ‘If I’m going to get this, I’m going to have to fight for it’. That was the drive within me and the second round I was bold. I did a little more canter to the triple bar. I showed off here and there. The first line was direct four and Efendi does a massive stride, so I showcased that and went wide.
NF: What was your immediate reaction when you heard the course instructions for the final work-off?
BM: The first time they announced the course I was still overwhelmed so it went right past my head. I’m very thankful they announced it a second time! It was great to demonstrate two changes of lead down the line, two counter canters – I knew those were places I would really need to show off and not be conservative. I had to show what we were capable of doing.
NF: Were you able to see any other final rounds ahead of yours?
BM: There’s no further schooling [before the final round] so you had to sit and wait. It was me and five other incredibly talented kids by the in-gate. You see piece by piece here and there but I would say that was almost better. I knew my plan and what I needed to do.
NF: Last year was a big year for you and this year is shaping up well, too. Washington and the Maclay are still to come. What’s your strategy?
BM: This year I feel stronger. I’m hungry for it and I’m beyond well mounted. I feel confident with this win. It’s rewarding but it’s not over yet.
I want to thank my trainers Mike McCormick and Tracey Fenney and everyone at MTM farm. Also Don Stewart who owns Efendi and Ken and Emily Smith at Ashland farms. It’s a group production and I could not be more thankful for every person who’s making this season happen.
Feature photo by Al Cook.
Written by Leslie Threlkeld
Having grown up on horseback, Leslie Threlkeld, Managing Editor at NOËLLE FLOYD, treasures her career in the equestrian industry as a writer, photographer, and eventing technical delegate. Leslie thrives on frequent travel but never tires of returning home to the serene mountains of North Carolina.